Articles Posted in Musculoskeletal Disorders

Many workers’ compensation cases involve a single traumatic event resulting in a temporary or permanent illness. However, workers’ compensation in Boston, and throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is also available for repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

wrist-pain-1445343-1-m.jpgAccording to a recent news article from Dayton Daily News, what often starts out as an occasional tingling in the thumb can often progress into a strange feeling of pain and numbness, that makes its hard for workers to sleep at night.

Epidemiologists estimate around six percent of all Americans will be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome at some time during their lives. This figure only accounts for those who seek medical attention and get a diagnosis. Many more will continue to suffer in silence, thinking this is just something with which they have to live for the rest of their working lives.
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Shepard v. Dept. of Corrections is a workers’ compensation appeal from the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

In 2005, claimant was working for the state department of corrections when she injured herself.

prison-1431133-m.jpgWorkers’ compensation commission for the state determined claimant injured her neck, lower back, both shoulders, and her left arm. Commissioners further found she suffered a permanent partial disability (PPD). Commissioners ordered her employer or its insurance carrier to pay for reasonably necessary future medical expenses, limited to prescription medications and four follow-up monitoring visits per year with her doctor listed on her application for workers’ compensation benefits.

The commission’s order stated either party could move for a modification at any time with a showing of good cause, and there was no limit on which medications her doctor could prescribe for her treatment. Commissioners also ordered employer or its insurance company to pay any reasonable medical expenses claimant had already incurred.
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Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and other repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are among the most common on the job injuries in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, many do not realize they suffer from a workplace injury or that it may make them eligible to receive workers’ compensation to assist them in paying for medical treatment, and obtaining compensation for lost wages as result of the injury.

wrist-pain-1445343-1-m.jpgFirst it is important to understand what it is like for someone who suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome. A CTS victim, whether an office worker, retail employee, or trade worker, spends most of their day trying to ignore the tingling and numbness in their hands and wrist. This can become extremely painful and made worse by repetitive movements a worker is required to make throughout the workday.

The cause of this pain and tingling is an injury to the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a narrow tube that runs through your wrist (palm side) and serves as a conduit or protective sheath for the nine tendons that control your fingers, and the main nerve in your hand. With repetitive movements, this tunnel can become pinched or compressed. When the carpal tunnel is compressed, the main nerve of the hand will be affected causing the pain, numbness, tingling and weakness of the hand and fingers as well as the wrist.
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Repetitive stress injury (RSI) is one of the more common on-the-job injuries we see in workers’ compensation in Boston. While repetitive stress injury can be caused by many different reasons, they are often work-related.

cafe-1412140-m.jpgA recent news article from the New York Post looks at how many baristas (coffee shop employees) tend to suffer from repetitive stress injuries. One employee featured in the article was diagnosed with medial epicondylitis, which is a type of repetitive stress injury more commonly referred to as golfer’s elbow.

This barista, however, did not get injured playing golf. Rather the repetitive lifting of heavy containers of milk injured her, as did the complex set of hand and arm motions necessary to make one of the common specialty drinks. At employee noted, in order to make an espresso, it is necessary to tamp the espresso, load it into the coffee maker, and then turn a knob. While the movements may seem easy, imagine the strain on the arm and hand caused by doing this hundreds of times a day, five or six days a week for years. Nothing in this process is ergonomic.
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We often talk about the dangers of working in construction and with hazardous materials.
What we rarely discuss are the risks of work-related injuries in Boston ‘ offices. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), employees who work in an office, at a desk or in a cubicle are also at some serious risks for on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
Employers of all kinds are required to make workplace conditions safe for employees. This means that employers are required to keep an eye on chemical hazards, work station and equipment design, environmental exposures, task design, physical environment dangers, psychological factors, etc.

The design of an office can make or break you. Office designs are supposed to allow employees to execute their jobs comfortably. Our Boston workers compensation attorneys stress the importance of proper ergonomic design. This design is used to make sure that employees aren’t working in odd postures, sitting or standing for too long, having to over-reach themselves and are making sure that repetitive work isn’t harming an employee’s health. Sometimes, changing an employee’s furniture or equipment can solve this problem and help an employee to work more comfortably. When posture is off for long stretches of time, musculoskeletal disorders and other problems can arise.

Employees can also be faced with risks for on-the-job injuries because of job stresses, design-related hazards, environmental dangers, open drawers, exposed electrical cords, repetition, job speed, job duration, chemical exposures, etc. It is important to make sure that the requirements of your job meet your capabilities. Overworking employees can often result in worker injuries and illnesses.

The nature of work is changing – and quickly. Now more than ever, on-the-job stress poses serious risks to workers’ health and to the viability of companies nationwide. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) has studied these factors and concluded that about a quarter of all employees see their job as the No. 1 cause of stress in their lives. About 75 percent of all workers say they have more at-work stress now than they did a generation ago.

We’re not saying a job is supposed to be a walk in the park. We’re just saying that we understand that job-related stress is becoming a growing source of physical and emotional health issues for many Americans. It’s not just an excuse for being lazy. The term “job stress” is defined as a harmful emotional or physical response that can happen when job requirements exceed the resources, capabilities or needs of the employees. This kind of stress can lead to poor health and even on-the-job injury.

Employers are asked to keep an eye on the health and the job production of employees. We realize that, with the current economy, employers are trying to squeeze as much as they can out of each employee, but there’s a stopping point. Under no circumstance should an employee jeopardize their health for the completion of a job. Employers, please provide a safe and reasonable atmosphere for your workers.
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OSHA is revising itsOccupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements regulation. The Federal Register recently published a notice of the reopening.
The Administration is reopening the record in an attempt to call on interested individuals to submit comment on the small business teleconferences that the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy OSHA co-sponsored last month. They’re also asking that individuals submit comment on the issues raised during those teleconferences. OSHA held those teleconferences to collect feedback from small business representatives regarding their experience with recording work-related musculoskeletal disorders in Boston and elsewhere in the United States. They would like to know how these representatives believe they would be directly impacted by the proposed rule. The public was invited to submit comments as well.

Our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys understand that musculoskeletal disorders can oftentimes occur in the workplace as they’re caused by spending long periods of time in the same position, poor posture and repetitive movements. These disorders affect the full length of the spine. These conditions cause serious pain, discomfort and sometimes a loss of productivity on the job. They can oftentimes go unreported as well, meaning that employees may not receive the proper treatment or compensation from employers.

Earlier this year, OSHA proposed a revision to its Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements regulation in an attempt to allow employers to check if a work related incident that was previous recorded under the current rules is a musculoskeletal disorder.

This proposed rule does not look to change any of the existing record-keeping requirements regarding when and under what circumstances an employer must record a work-related injury or illness. It would only seek to require that an employer would now mark the musculoskeletal disorder column box on the log if the case that has already been recorded meets the requirements to be classified as a musculoskeletal disorder.

“OSHA is eager to hear from the public on this, and every, proposed rule,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “The more feedback the agency receives from small businesses on this topic, the better informed we will be in crafting a proposed regulation that protects workers without overburdening employers.”

Injuries can be recorded if they meet a number of criteria, including days away from work and medical treatment beyond first aid or restricted work performance. The new rule would help to specifically define a musculoskeletal disorder, for record-keeping purposes only, as a disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage or spinal discs.

More than 1.5 million recordable musculoskeletal disorder incidents are expected to happen annually and the yearly costs of the proposed rule would be more than $1.5 million, according to OSHA.
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